Revising is a Muddy Business

Right now, I’m in the middle of two reconstruction projects, and I’m not sure which one’s messier.

This is what my backyard looks like today.

Looks pretty bad doesn’t it? It’s a complete demolition. The grass was torn up, a cement patio was jack-hammered into pieces and hauled out with a forklift, and my flowerbeds were all dug up. As I looked out the window this morning, I couldn’t help but draw some similarities between the current state of my backyard and the picture book I’m revising.

At the beginning of the year I signed up for an online workshop through Midsouth SCBWI. It’s a great workshop focused on creating a picture book dummy. The workshop is for author/illustrator’s and authors, and last week we got our first critique comments back from Alyson Heller, an editor with Simon & Schuster.

Overall, I felt pretty good about the feedback from Ms. Heller, some of the changes she suggested were easy fixes. But one of the changes was going to require some serious deconstruction. The end of my story needs a complete overhaul.  Changing the ending of a story doesn’t mean changing the last line or two. The whole story feeds the ending, so I knew I’d have to tear everything up; the grass, the patio, and the pretty flowerbeds.

A complete demolition can cause stress, especially when the story is written in rhyme. After staring at my computer screen for awhile, worrying that my story would never be the same, I created a new document, took my story to a new home and tore it apart.

Right now, things are pretty messy. There are things I have to save, like the tri-color beech in my yard.  There are things I need to move, like the flowers I’m replanting in other parts of my yard. But I took a good look at my ending. I see the problems, like the cracks in my old patio. It needs to be carried away with a forklift. But I’m constructing a new ending, a better patio, brick by brick. I’m building new pathways to beautiful flower beds, and surrounding it all with a weed-free lawn.  Wish me luck!

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